The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is concerned after the Bulgarian authorities denied a group of journalists from the Republic of Macedonia/FYROM entry into Bulgaria.
According to information received by SEEMO, on 24 April 2010 Slavko Manginovski a journalist for TV Sonce, with US citizenship, along withDejan Petkovski and Sase Ocevski, two cameramen for TV Sonce, both citizens of the Republic of Macedonia/FYROM,were on their way to report on a celebration held by the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria in the Bulgarian town Melnik. They were accompanied by university professor Tihomir Stojanovski from the School of Drama Arts at the University of Cyryl and Methodius, Skopje. The journalists had their camera equipment with them and were travelling in a car clearly marked with the words 'Press' and 'TV Sonce'.
Upon their arrival at the border crossing of Zlatarevo, the group was prevented by Bulgarian customs officials from entering Bulgaria despite identifying themselves as journalists.
After being held at the border for about two hours, Manginovski, Petkovski, Ocevski and Stojanovski were asked to leave the border area and return to the Republic of Macedonia / FYROM. The reasons given for the refusal to allow entry were that they had no medical insurance, no vouchers for a hotel and no official invitation to visit Bulgaria.
"SEEMO condemns this move by the Bulgarian authorities, saidSEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. Bulgaria is a member of the European Union and is expected to uphold the right to press freedom, one of the pillars of democracy."
He added: "It was clear that the journalists were travelling on duty to Bulgaria. Instead of helping them acquire medical insurance at the border, the Bulgarian customs authorities blocked the journalists from entering Bulgaria. Asking professional journalists at the border for hotel vouchers and invitation letters is not acceptable and a clear step by the Bulgarian authorities against freedom of movement of journalists. Such treatment of journalists at the border is not acceptable for a democratic country like Bulgaria.
"Decisions like these prevent journalists from working freely and hinder the free flow of information. SEEMO therefore urges the Bulgarian authorities to do everything in their power to investigate this matter and to ensure that cases like these do not happen again in the future."